Oilers Can Still Overtake Canucks For 1st in Pacific: Here’s How

The window has opened a crack more for captain Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers to finish first in the Pacific Division, after the Vancouver Canucks lost 6-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday (April 2).

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Edmonton (45-23-5) trails the division-leading Canucks (46-21-8) by five points, but has nine games remaining on its 2023-24 schedule while Vancouver has just seven games left to play in the regular season.

In fact, the Oilers now actually control their own destiny. If they go 9-0 over their final nine games, including a regulation win in their upcoming game against the Canucks, the Oilers will finish atop the Pacific Division standings, regardless of what Vancouver does in its other six remaining games.

Finishing first would assure the Oilers home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. It would also be a monumental accomplishment for a franchise that hasn’t placed atop its division standings since the 1986-87 season, when current Edmonton assistant coach Paul Coffey was still playing defence for the Oilers.

Here’s how the Oilers can find themselves atop the Pacific Division standings when the 2023-24 NHL regular season concludes on April 18.

Oilers Have Slightly Easier Schedule

According to Tankathon, the Oilers’ strength of schedule (SOS) is .554, compared to .556 for the Canucks. SOS is calculated by using the combined points percentage for all remaining opponents of a respective team.

Related: Oilers: Everything to Know About Edmonton’s Remaining Schedule

Edmonton hosts five of its remaining nine games, while the Canucks will play just three more times at Rogers Arena. The Oilers have five more games against teams currently in playoff position, and four against teams not presently in a playoff spot. Vancouver faces four playoff opponents in its final seven games.

Oilers and Canucks Will Face Off on HNIC

One of those games is a head-to-head match-up: April 13, when Vancouver visits Rogers Place on Hockey Night in Canada for a potentially monumental “four-point game”.

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This will be the teams’ first time playing each other since Nov. 6. The Canucks and Oilers met three times in the first four weeks of the regular season, with Vancouver going 3-0. The Canucks crushed Edmonton 9-1 and 6-2 at Rogers Arena, and beat the Oilers 4-3 in the Alberta capital.

Canucks Have Edge in Tiebreakers

With both the Oilers and Canucks playing 82 games, the first tiebreaker will be regulation wins (RW), which Vancouver leads 40 to 35. The second tiebreaker is regulation and overtime wins (ROW), which Vancouver leads 46 to 43. The next tiebreaker is the team with the most wins, which the Canucks have a narrow lead of 46 to 45.

If the teams are still deadlocked after total wins, the tiebreaker then goes to the team with the most points earned in games against each other. The Canucks have already clinched this tiebreaker, thanks to their dominance of the Oilers early this season.

Oilers Have Come a Long Way

That the Oilers have even an outside shot of finishing on top of the Pacific standings is remarkable, considering how far they had fallen out of the race: On the morning of Nov. 11, just one month into the season, they were already 20 points back of first place in the division (then occupied by the Golden Knights).

At that point, the Oilers began a long ascension up the mountain. They were 15 points back of first place on Dec. 1, 12 points back on New Year’s Day, still a dozen points back on Feb. 1, and 11 points back on March 1.

The Oilers finally made serious headway last month, capitalizing on their several games in hand, going 10-3-2 in March while Vancouver was 8-3-1.

Now, after Edmonton picked up a point in an overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday (April 1) and Vancouver was beaten in regulation by Vegas, the Oilers are as close as they’ve been to the division lead since the first week of this NHL season.

Oilers Have Legit Chance at Catching Canucks

It’s not completely unrealistic that Edmonton could yet move in front of the Canucks. As an example, if the Oilers go 6-3-0 in their remaining nine games, then all they would need to finish first is for Vancouver to go 3-4-0 the rest of the way. For context, Edmonton is 5-2-2 over its last nine games, while the Canucks have gone 4-3-0 in their previous seven contests.

Tonight (April 3) could be pivotal in the race for first place, as the Oilers face the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, while Vancouver visits the Arizona Coyotes, who have one of the five worst records in the entire NHL this season. If Edmonton can end the night still within five points of the Canucks, it will be a successful one.